Re-authorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, or MSA, governing federal fisheries, is slowly making its way through the system, with House Committee on Natural Resources Chair Doc Hastings, R-Wash., releasing a draft copy for public perusal and comment.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries wrapped up its meeting last week on Lower Cook Inlet issues with a change in boundaries for the Port Dick salmon seine fishery, a couple of tweaks to the groundfish fishery and an awareness-raising discussion about the state’s response to federal plans to privatize the pollock fishery.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is expecting another solid sockeye salmon run in Upper Cook Inlet for 2014, but a weak return to the Susitna River may make management problematic.
ADF&G is predicting a total return of 6.1 million sockeye, 3.8 million of those to the Kenai River, with a harvest of 4.3 million by all user groups.
Young fishermen are preparing to gather for the fifth Alaska Young Fishermen’s Summit in Anchorage beginning Dec. 10 and running through Dec. 12.
Put on by the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program through the University of Alaska, the summit has taken place four times since 2007, and is intended to be biennial going forward.
The event offers a chance to meet, socialize with, and talk about issues with other young fishermen from around the state, as well as well-known fishing industry leaders.
The effort by a new group calling itself the Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance to put a ballot initiative in front of voters that would ban setnetting in Cook Inlet has drawn swift and sharp criticism from the fishing industry.
United Cook Inlet Drift Association is holding a series of meetings to prepare its members and other upper Cook Inlet salmon fishermen for the upcoming Alaska Board of Fisheries meetings. The goal is to encourage them to sign up to give informed testimony at those meetings, which take place in Anchorage Jan. 31 through Feb. 13.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries met last week to hash out proposals for the Pacific cod fisheries, but declined to make any of the substantial changes to state-water cod allocations that some fishermen were seeking.
There were a suite of proposals that would have shifted allocations to state waters in Chignik, Kodiak and Cook Inlet, and the board voted them down unanimously.
The small boat fleet got some bad, but not unexpected news that the Bairdi tanner crab fisheries in Kodiak, Chignik and the Alaska Peninsula will be closed for the 2014 season.
The fisheries have been on a boom-and-bust cycle for years, with only two of the six Kodiak areas open last season, one of the two South Peninsula areas fishing, and Chignik closed completely.
The quota in Kodiak last season was 660,000 pounds, down from 950,000 pounds in 2012 and 1.47 million pounds in 2011.
Bering Sea crab fishermen are getting pounded from all sides.
In addition to the potential multimillion dollar market hit from missing the beginning of the red king crab season as a result of the government shutdown, the opilio crab quota is down 19 percent, at 54 million pounds.
The quota has been on a roller-coaster ride recently, going from 54 million pounds in 2010 to 89 million pounds in 2011 and back down to 66 million pounds last season.
The on-going impasse in Washington, D.C., that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of federal workers being furloughed is imperiling the Bering Sea king crab fishery and the profits it may generate for fishermen. The fishery is slated to open Oct. 15.
By most accounts, the 2013 salmon season in Alaska was a barn-burner.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is reporting that nearly 270 million fish were caught in the state this year, more than double last year’s catch of 120 million fish and eclipsing the previous record of 222 million fish caught in 2005.
Pink salmon catches in Southeast and Prince William Sound largely drove the numbers, with each area producing about 89 million pinks. State-wide, 215 million pinks were caught.
Homer-based North Pacific Fisheries Association has received a $147,400 National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Fisheries Innovation Fund grant for a two-year project to use electronic monitoring in the pot and longline cod fisheries.
National Marine Fisheries Ser-vice is providing another $120,000 in matching funds.
NPFA president Buck Laukitis said the focus would be on the small boat cod fleet. The grant was awarded while NPFA was wrapping up a similar grant project for smaller halibut boats.
The Kenai River Sportfishing Association has used elements of a recently released study about food security on the Kenai Peninsula to assert that commercial fishing should be curtailed in favor of sport and personal-use fishing.
Not so fast, according to the one of the authors of the study, Philip Loring.
Prince William Sound is a busy place these days with three ongoing fisheries that are open entry, not requiring IFQ ownership or a limited entry permit.
Shrimp fishing with pots entered its third four-day period this week, with the first two periods producing about 11,500 pounds of spot shrimp out of a 66,300 pound quota.
For the first time since its inception, the state-waters Pacific cod pot fleet quit fishing with a substantial amount of the quota still in the water.
The boats have all hauled in their gear, leaving 700,000 pounds in the water. The fleet of boats under 58 feet in length landed 1.7 million pounds this season, and the over-58-foot fleet maxed out their quota of one million pounds a week later than last year on March 9.
The state-waters season opened Feb. 10, one day earlier than last year.
The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association’s attempt to get the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to clarify the objectives of the restructured observer program and provide a meaningful timeline for implementing the electronic monitoring program were largely unsuccessful at last week’s meeting.
The Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation is seeking vessel owners for a fishing vessel energy audit pilot program.
The foundation notes that the high cost of fuel is a challenge that affects the entire seafood industry. More than 8,000 commercial fishing vessels are licensed in Alaska, and the operation of fishing vessels accounts for a large percentage of the fuel consumption in the seafood industry.
This is a significant area to target for energy efficiency and fuel savings.
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery got underway last week with two openings March 27 and 28 that scooped up nearly half of the 11,549-ton quota.
The two openings combined produced a catch of 5,700 tons of very ripe, “excellent quality” herring, with roe counts averaging between 12.3 and 15.9 percent.
The fleet of 48 seine boats took some time off to allow processors to catch up, but then were given another opportunity March 30.
The Alaska Board of Fisheries met last week to look at statewide finfish issues, and took up a proposal submitted by the Upper Cook Inlet Task Force that would have provided new guidelines for the management of Kenai River chinook salmon for the upcoming season.
The proposal was aimed at allowing harvest of the abundant Kenai River sockeye salmon by the East Side setnet fishery while ensuring adequate escapement of late-run Kenai chinooks.
Bruce Knowles, chairman of the Mat-Su borough’s Fish and Wildlife Commission, is urging sport fishermen to call Gov. Sean Parnell and tell him to prohibit fishery managers from following the Upper Cook Inlet fishery management plan set forth by the Board of Fisheries during the upcoming salmon season.